Stephen Fry - Why does God let children suffer?

Stephen Fry (an English actor/tv presenter) had an interview on an Irish TV programme recently, and when asked about God, this was his answer:

It’s a quite standard Atheistic view, or excuse.

But my question is, what would be the best response to something like that?

I have my own thoughts but want some other insights as to how best to respond.


I couldn’t tell you. That sort of a statement is intended to stir up emotions and prevent a rational response. Any rational response that can be made ends up sounding callous or cold, even if it is true.

I have an idea. Why not turn it around? “Yeah. That is a good question. Hey! He made me, and He made you. Why don’t we go help them with their suffering?”

If we are the Body,
Why aren’t His arms reaching?
Why aren’t His hands healing?
Why aren’t His words teaching?

And if we are the Body?
Why aren’t His feet going?
Why is His love not showing
them there is a way?
Jesus is the way.

The only trouble with this is it convicts not only them, but us, of our laziness and apathy. That’s painful. But on the upside, we just might make the world better if we look to fix the problems. We have the capability. Why don’t we?

God’s peace. Notice how atheists always try to take the high moral ground, presuming that they can be the judge of the God of creation! I’ve been thinking about this all morning. How about these responses?

  1. Why is this a bad thing, if pain is an adaptive response to a harmful stimulus which tends to promote survival? On the whole, pain prevents more suffering than it causes.

  2. So you will give God the credit for causing bone cancer in a child, but you will deny him the credit for giving doctors and scientists the intellect, the will, and the healing arts that have led to successful treatment and the possible cure of cancer?

  3. Who do you credit for beauty, and love, and goodness in the world?

  4. But in your view, all paths lead to the grave and to oblivion, so both suffering and happiness are meaningless. In my view, all things in life are meaningful because they were created by the God of meaning, who promised that he would personally wipe away every tear from our eyes on that day when we see him as he is. Frankly, your view sucks.

I probably wouldn’t use the last one in an actual encounter with an atheist, since I avoid dealing with them. “The fool has said in his heart, ‘There is no God.’” Blessings, ~Br. Carlo~

All suffering comes from the sin of humanity. We’re more responsible for that than He is. It’s fair that He wants to make saints of them too!

Thank you both for you replies, very insightful and definitely a lot of truth in them!

Brother Carlos your points were particularly touching and I think may be more inclined to open the heart of a hardened atheist, if only a little, than just trying to win an argument.

Much food for thought!!

The thought that comes to my mind is the scene from The Passion of the Christ, when the broken and bloody Jesus meets Mary and says the words:
“See, Mother, I make all things new!”

That would be great if we actually had a cure for cancer. Unfortunately we don’t and until we do many children will suffer and die. If the Christian God exists the He could cure all these children immediately. The ball is back in His court.

Ultra-lazy reasoning characteristic of Fry’s ilk. “If God loved me then He’d give me a good job/lots of money/a ripped bod/a gorgeous wife.” God in His infinite love has given you a full set of tools to use to improve yourself and the world. The failure to thrive is fully the fault of humanity and not a defect in God’s design. Physician, heal thyself.

It doesn’t make it untrue.

What tools are these?

He makes it sound as if his insight is novel when in truth even forums like CAF are brimming with threads asking the very same sort of question.

I guess I’d just flatly tell him that his question was an old one and that I had wondered the same thing many times myself. No, I don’t have a good answer to why the universe that God made is the way it is. I don’t* get all huffy about it though.

*Well, most of the time I don’t . . . :rolleyes: . . . :stuck_out_tongue:

Knowledge, intellect, curiosity, reasoning… and the free will that lets you decide to turn from him instead of turning toward him.

I think it’s the height of arrogance to assume that because I would run the world differently, my way would be better. I don’t understand God’s plan - and I have to accept that. But just because I don’t understand it doesn’t make it wrong.

Maybe Mr. Fry just has high standards for believing in an all-loving God.

Jimmy Akin (and Catholic Answers) has put out this audio (Jimmy Akin Tackles The Problem Of Evil–here) for free to those who may want it . . . . (here) concerning just this principle regarding this issue.

My wife and I listened to this audio several evenings ago and thought it was very well thought out and presented by Mr. Akin.

Here is the link . . . .

And here is what Catholic Answers states . . . .

Free MP3 download when you sign up for the Catholic Answers Insider sales newsletter

For many the problem of evil is the greatest obstacle to belief in God

If God is all-knowing, all-powerful, and all-good, then why does he allow so much suffering in the world? In this compelling audio presentation, Catholic Answers senior apologist Jimmy Akin tackles the problem head-on, showing you how evil and suffering do not contradict God’s goodness, but in fact allow it to show forth more fully.

Sign up for the Catholic Answers Insider sales newsletter and we’ll send you a link to download this talk FREE. But that’s not all.

When you sign up for our newsletter, you will receive . . . .

God bless.


Let me ask you this (and I don’t ask this in a snarky way): If God were to cure all these children immediately, what benefit would there be for our souls? Did God promise anywhere that life was to be free of pain and suffering? That’s your view of the universe; not the Creator’s.

Maybe if God were to do this it would draw people to Him. Many people turn away from God because of suffering. How is that good for their souls? In the gospels Jesus healed people who were suffering. He didn’t say “Let them suffer, it’s good for their souls.”

I can say personally that I found my way to God during a time of suffering; when things were going well, I never realized how much I needed Him.

I suppose this objection never crossed the minds of those active in Catholic intellectual tradition going back 2000 years :wink:

God is not the source of evil but sometimes evil comes out of things which are good such as free will. Moreover, faith gives us certainty that God, though not the source of evil, sometimes permits evil so that good may come out of it. We may not know compassion if there was no suffering or hope if there was no despair. It is not always clear how good will come out of particular evils but we have faith that it will.

The choice to turn away is one of their own free will. And while there were miraculous healings, look at many of the Saints who endured incredibly hardships and agonies No, the Bible does say “let them suffer, it’s good for their souls” but it also does not promise a world free of suffering. That’s sometihing that we create in our own minds.

He’s not using it as an excuse…it’s quite a valid question.
And it’s not a question only Atheists ask, to be sure. Many Theists would like to have a better answer to that very same question, and ask it when their child or others suffer immeasurable pain and suffering.


I think that’s the way it is for a lot of us.

And in general, we don’t thank Him when things are going well (and for all the good things in the world), but we sure know how to blame Him for the bad.

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